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by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: this year marks michael a best-'s 20th year as
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selling author. the latest novel in the harry bosch series is set in south l.a. during the riots in 1992. he is also up next year with a new documentary called "sound of redemption, the frank morgan project. hear a slight preview. ♪ ♪ >> i cannot think of frank morgan without thinking of redemption. as he recorded those things, he was making up for lost time, try to leave something behind that would inspire somebody or make their life better. tavis: we will get to "the black box." tell me about that black man, frank morgan. >> frank has a wonderful story. i got to know him a little before he passed away. he overcame a lot to make beautiful music.
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he was pretty well known within the jazz world, but i do not think enough people know his story. that was the impetus to try to put together a film about it. tavis: what is the story line that drives you to produce a documentary? >> he was the air apparent to charlie byrd parton. he went down a bad pass. got into drugs. , ended up spending about 28 years in prison. between the first up, and his second, 30 years went by. when he came back, he came out a gentle soul with a message. do not take the path i took. thews music to survive his the pressures, and so forth. do not go down that path. he worked the clubs. but he always stopped and told his story whenever he got a chance. he did this with me a few times. he would talk to kids about it.
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that is a story we have heard before. but this guy lived a tough life and overcame it, and left behind a great stuff. tavis: after 20 years of prison, he still has the capacity to blow? >> in san quentin, they have an ongoing band. it is still up there. guys get together and play every saturday night. and there was some really remarkable just artists in there with him, at different times. he really kept a tight. tavis: he is referenced in your work. how did you come together? >> i write about harry bosch, who has overcome his own obstacles. and he loves jazz. i would pick artists that had the same kind of journey, in a way. his clever guy is frank. i guess that got to him. he found out about it. we have mutual friends that put us together.
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there was a master class in saxophone. we had just started doing that when he got sick and he passed away. hopefully, this zone will do his idea, and go into schools. tavis: this is for theatrical release? >> we want to see what we have got. that is the best thing. it would get out on video. tavis: i will come forward to the book, "the black box." when i saw the title, i thought, as you might imagine, "an airplane crashed." i thought that would be what harry bosch would investigate. >> it is a metaphor. the black box holds the information and all the flight aeronautics.
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if there is a crash, the can figure out what happened. harry bosch think there is a black box, metaphorically, at every crime scene, the will tell him what happened and lead him to the evildoer. that is his job, to look for the black box. tavis: i always do this when you come on. i will let you set the backdrop for the story, because i do not want to tell too much and give it away. >> i was aware of the anniversary. it is 20 years of harry bosch, 25 novels. i wanted this to encapsulate the 20 years. you go back to 1992, and look for a starting point. end of april, the city had the momentous thing, the riots that followed the rodney king case verdict. about a story out of that, one of many unsolved murders harry bosch worked on back then. because of the events that occurred, he was unable to solve
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the case. 20 years later, he goes back and hopefully bring justice to the case. tavis: you were writing for the l.a. times had at the time of the riots, so you wrote about the riots for "the l.a. times." looking back, coming to your real life, what do you make, looking back at that moment? >> it was probably the most surreal moment, he but maybe the most important moment for me as a reporter. i was a reporter a couple more years after that, and then i was back to writing books. to see what happened to the city, to be surprised by what happened -- it was a good lesson learned. not understanding the pressures that were underneath the surface of this town. it makes you think about it. it is a question in the book. 20 years later, how far have we come?
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could it happen again if the right circumstances are there? in has come up in my books, in little pieces until now. it is kind of a big piece. i am writing this close to me. tavis: how long was it after the riots before you took off to write books full time? >> two years. tavis: heather has to be something that happened. what happened that made you know the time was ripe to jump? >> i took a leave of absence. it was only a three month leave of absence, to continue my riding. during that time, full time focus on my books, i saw a big improvement. i realize i could not have a foot in both camps. not if i want to do it one or the other very well. i saw an opening, but i could have a career as a novelist.
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i left one behind for the other. tavis: when you say you saw improvement, i guess nobody critiques the stuff the way you do. what did you see? >> i think i saw a more cohesive effort. i was a reporter by day, coming home, doing it part-time. it was difficult to maintain a smooth focus to a book. i think the book i was writing at that time shifted more throughout being plucked oriented to character oriented. any character would rather dig into character than fancy plots. it is really about character. i saw the focus and had to keep it. tavis: how did new york harry bosch -- how did harry bosch become your guy? >> i think it is because he has a basic idea about fairness that connects to readers. everybody counts or nobody
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counts. it sounds pretty simple. it is an idealistic view of the world. it is hard to keep going. his efforts to always follow that code, i think -- he is certainly in daring to me because of that. hopefully, that is what translates to be who readers. -- to the readers. tavis: what is your approach, when you are addressing subject matter where race is at the epicenter, like these riot stucks -- like these riots? >> politics intrudes into investigation. harry is relentless, saying, what does politics have to do with justice? you suddenly have to build a story that touches on these things, but does not make any grand statements. i trust the readers to be smart enough to see what is going on,
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to have the internal discussions. is this the way we want to go? is is reflective of our society now? tavis: are there harry bosch's out there? is he a has been, or they never were? he is a figment of your imagination. are there people like that today? >> i think the answer is yes to both. harry bosch is a conglomerate of good detectives i met over the years as a reporter. and as a novelist, and doors opened up to me. i see aspects of him in real people. it is not a 925 jobs. this is a mission. there are -- it is not a 9:00 to 5:00 job. this is a mission. there is an exaggeration. skies will break the rules, but they will not get many chances to keep doing it. i am lucky. harry bosch has been around for
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a lot of books. i do not know a real harry bosch would have lasted through that many stories. tavis: what has been your mission, and has that changed over the 20 years you have been writing about him? >> i cannot believe i am able to keep writing about this guy. he ages in real time. the more it goes on, the more i feel it is sacred, something i have to improve and do my best with. it is almost a duty. these books really reflect what is happening in our society. time to raise the right questions, hold up the mirror out right angles. it has gone from being, i hope i get a book club, too, i have to make sure i take care of this opportunity i have been given. tavis: the books about harry bosch -- what does that say to
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you about the way the city of los angeles is or has evolved? >> i think the fact this has lasted 20 years shows this place is constantly in momentum. i can really take the experience of writing and reading, and attribute it to what has gone on in our city. it is constantly changing. it is different. what was interesting 15 years ago is gone now. because harry bosch moves on and we see all these aspects, i think it remains interesting. and the city remains interesting to me, and most of the people who live here. tavis: 20 years ago, l.a. was a microcosm of the world in its ethnic and cultural mecca. it is more so now. i was down in l.a. and the other day. there are 100 different languages spoken in our school system. to the rhetorical question you
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raised earlier -- could the right thing happen again in this city? -- the roit thing hap -- riot thin happen again? what might bring it on? >> we have gone through 20 years of reforms and trying for better communication between police and all our society's, and reforming the police. that has gone a long way toward answering the question, could it happen again. obviously, the police department is held in better stead and it was. i think what is lost is, the verdicts that set this off for only a match. the kindling was there. a lot of it was economics, the lack of opportunity. we have been going through a difficult time in our economy. that holds me back from saying
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this would never happen again. the other thing that holds the back is, i do not think it was expected to have been 20 years ago. people were caught flatfooted. police department, media -- everybody was surprised. if it surprised us then, we have to be careful we do not let it happen again. tavis: big city politics in this country national news. it can be new york, chicago, l.a. has the political scene changed dramatically in 20 years? >> i think so. i like to write about the politics of the police department. the department has always had an idea or knowledge that their image is out there. there was a time, 20 years ago, when they did not care what the image was, and now they do. the idea of politics, what we
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are presenting to the world, is in this book and other books i have written. as far as the big picture of politics, i can't act like i am any expert on it, but politics our politics. tavis: let me get personal with you. i mentioned that this is your 20th anniversary. we are about to start our 10th anniversary of the show. you have been in this program a number of times. what do you make of the fact that you have been able to sustain not just your work, but his character, for two decades now? >> i do not know what to make of it. to me, there is something mystical about it. once a year, i have a blank screen and need 100,000 words. i have to figure out which character is going to sustain me. time after time, harry bosch is the note -- is the answer.
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it sounds like a contradiction, but he is cynical but hopeful about the future of this place, about himself. we both have teenage daughters who are the same age. that used to plug in, because i am sharing my experiences with him. the book to book, the character can never be static. he has to be as new as the plot, every time i write about him. tavis: we can read how harry has changed over the years. how has harry changed you? >> he has gone from a guy who had a black and white view of the world. his views on guilt, and so forth. the edges have been sanded down over 20 years. some tough experiences. personal experiences as well as cases. he sees the world more in terms
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of gray. i think i have made the journey with him. tavis: every detective eventually retires. how will you know it is time to retire harry? >> i hate to say it, but it is coming up soon. if i could write a few of these books, i could put it against the evolution of the city in real time. we were never thinking he was going to be around 20 years. he has aged 20 years. he has a birthday in the book. he is 62. live by the sword and die by the sword. the realism of the series dictates he has two years left. something will pivot, and we will do something else. tavis: does that scare you or excite you as a writer? >> it does both. i have been busy with the forward progression of his life. when he turns and his gun and his badge, that gives me freedom to go back and fill in the
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blanks. that is exciting. at the same time, it is like an old coat you like to wear. it is very comfortable, doing what i have been doing with him. it is a little bit scary. you should face challenges all the time, or it is not worth it. tavis: we know what you can do with a strong root. is there another chandra that even remotely interests you as much as this? >> i do not know about and the genre. -- about genre. frank morgan -- it is very esoteric. i do not know how the conception of this will be. i would like to write a judge story, have music in it, and have some kind of connection between writing and music. i do not outline my books. i am an interview -- am an improviser. you take the framework of a
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song, but he goes off of it. there are connections. i would like to explore that in a novel. tavis: have you been a jazz had a while? >> 20 years. i was a blues and rock and roll. i was a reporter. so i knew what to find for him. i knew to get to people who would advise me on what harry would listen to. you cannot do it all as research and not let the music get in. it is growing on me. i am probably listening to more jazz than anything else right now. tavis: what has the exposure to that music done for you? >> it has been inspirational. on a practical level, it is something i can listen to when i write. without the lyrics, it is no intrusion, just wonderful music.
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i am real particular about the people i listened to. i like to know the story behind the music. somehow, that makes it more meaningful. tavis: you mentioned you can listen to it while you right. what is your writing process? how does that work for you? >> i have a room i call the cave. tavis: every guy calls the room a cave, a man cave. >> it is like a cave. i can hit a button and shades come down, and it becomes pitch black. 20 years ago, i wrote in a walk- in closet, and i had a limp in there. i got lucky with my first book i published. i am trying to recreate the experience. i am very lucky. i have gotten more fortune and i deserve. i still go back to try to create a dark atmosphere with one flight. it is the same lamp.
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tavis: different blub, thou -- bult, thou -- bulb, though. i assume those surroundings, that lamp, does something for you, being in that space. >> especially in the darkness. everything outside is gone. whatever the pressures -- they all go away. it is all about you. i write in a laptop, it is you and that screen. it is a solitary mission. it is great work if you get it. i am lucky enough to have it at the moment. it cranks down the focus. tavis: 20 years ago, you were not on a laptop. >> i was on a bulky computer, but it was a computer. tavis: never longhand? >> right out of school, my first year as a newspaper, was the first year computers flooded
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newspapers. i have never written professionally on anything but a computer. tavis: you talked about the frank morgan documentary. your stuff has been made in film. you talk about pacoima -- about "the lincoln lawyer," were you pleased with that? >> they did a great job. tavis: is there more in the offering? >> i finally got the rights to harry bosch back. he was tied up for 10 years. i wrote a lot of book. we have some partnerships developed. i am writing a television show. everything in hollywood is a big "if." if it is going to happen, it will be pretty soon. tavis: what you imagine will happen to harry bosch a couple years from now? or do you have no idea?
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>> i do not think too far ahead normally, but i am forced into it. he has a 16-year-old daughter who has an understanding of her father's mission. you can tell she wants to continue the mission. she is pretty young now. i am thinking in terms of six, seven years down the road. the series might shift to the daughter. tavis: does it seem like 20 years for you? >> no. does it seem like a can for you? -- like 10 for you? tavis: yes. it is been a great ride. i have never done anything in my live longer than a few years, here or there. i get bored pretty easily. for that matter, pbs hardly ever signed contracts more than a year long. not everybody has that luxury. there are a lot of deals and i did not get, because i would not
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sign a multi-year deal. but i would do a one-year deal and figure out whether i wanted to come back for another year. it has been 10 years. but i love it. the book from aha michael connelly is called "the black box." good to have you on. congratulations. that is our show for tonight. you can download our alabama in the itunes home -- our pap in the itu -- our app in the itunes store. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with kristen stewart on "on the road."
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>> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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>> be more. pbs.
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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: high-level meetings are happening, but the players aren't talking. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, we'll update negotiations aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff. >> ifill: then, we look at michigan's debate over right-to- work laws which would prevent labor unions from requiring membership.

Tavis Smiley
PBS December 10, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm PST

News/Business. Michael Connelly. (2012) Author Michael Connelly. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Harry Bosch 17, L.a. 5, Us 2, New York 2, U.s. 2, The City 2, Thou 2, Pbs 2, Frank Morgan 2, Big City 1, Chicago 1, Los Angeles 1, Laptop 1, Esoteric 1, Smiley 1, Alabama 1, Bult 1, South L.a. 1, Pacoima 1, Kristen Stewart 1
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